Basic PWNAGE for Skeptics
(A quick reference for how to respond to a variety of challenges from those who would like to believe things that are unfounded or who insist on disseminating pseudoscience as fact)
 

Obviously, you can come up with your own PWNAGE for a given situation but some have asked that such a reference be provided to allow a starting point, for those not as experienced in skepticism and rationality.  The reader of this is assumed to be intelligent enough to tailor these to the nature of the situation.  In some cases, more than one is provided.   And for those who might not know "PWN" comes from the word "own" and means to put someone in their place, shoot down or otherwise silence by making a clever statement of comeback.

 

Skepticism and the Paranormal:

              

UFO’s are real!
Of course they are!  I’ve seen flying objects I couldn’t identify.  If there’s a flying object and you can’t tell what it is, maybe it’s too far away and you only see it for a second, it could be a plane, or maybe a helicopter or a balloon.   Well, as long as you can’t tell, it’s a UFO!

How do you know there are not visitors from other worlds?   Or that UFO’s are from another civilization?
Well, if there are, then somehow they manage to come to the earth without being observed by optical telescopes or space based radar.  Their propulsion doesn’t leave any kind of exhaust that can be detected or produce any sort of RF or electromagentic fields that could be dected.  Presumably they must be coming from a long distance and would probably need some sort of warp drive (either that or their time scale is so much larger than ours that it precludes them being carbon based or anything like any known life), and yet this warp drive causes no detectable anomalies in space.   They don’t get hot on entering the atmosphere, they don’t show up on radar.  They don’t communicate or sense things by any sort of known radiation or field.

And yet:  They do occasionally turn off their invisibility or radar transparency, but only around low-resolution radar or when the only cameras around are far away and the lighting conditions are imperfect.   Somehow, they know never to do this if there is a high definition video camera with a low-light CCD and a telephoto lens.   Weird, eh?

Crop circles are real!  It’s a message from beyond!
You do know that pranksters have confessed, right?  And that there’s nothing about any crop circle that cannot be reproduced, right?  Does this matter to you?

Well, if they’re trying to tell us something then they’re pretty stupid to think we’d know what all those damn squiggles and crap mean.   I mean when we put messages on probes we tried really hard to add universal stuff, like maps of the solar system or sin waves to represent sound.   Apparently these extra terrestrials never considered that we might not speak their language, huh?

You cannot deny the possibility of X!
(X= Alien Abductions, Ghosts, Daemons, Beanery Fields)
No, it’s not impossible that X exists, but it’s also possible that right now there are seven portly guys with handlebar mustaches in overalls tap-dancing in my backyard right now while smoking Cuban cigars.   It’s not like it couldn’t happen, but I don’t really have a problem making the assumption that there are not, even without looking back there now myself.   Similarly, there’s no reason for me to assume X and it’s entirely reasonable for me to assume X does not exist.

I have had a weird experience which has convinced me of the existence of ghosts.  Do you think I’m crazy or a liar?
No.   It’s entirely possible that your experience was due to an error, a dream, an inaccurate memory.   I don’t know because I was not there, but there have been enough incidents of perfectly sane people thinking they saw something which later turned out to not be the case.    It’s a natural part of the human condition, but I’m afraid your anecdote is not something that can really be considered evidence.

I saw a medium after someone close to me died and I swear they were able to speak to them!  How dare you question it?
While I don’t want to cause you any more pain over your loss, it’s very upsetting for me to think someone could have been making money off of you or others by tapping such emotional and deep subjects.

Have you ever heard of "Cold Reading"?

Every psychic which has actually been investigated turned out to be a fraud, even if they had been believed by many intelligent people, who may have been dealing with an emotional issue.  Do you really think that your example is different than all the others which were believed with equal confidence by so many others?

A psychic was right about X event!  That’s vindication!
A broken clock is right twice a day.  If you make enough predictions you will eventually get a few correct just by chance.   But do you realize how bad and how far off the predictions of some of these people, like Sylvia Browne are?   It’s ridiculous!

Nostradamus Predicted X!
(x=historical event such as 9/11, World War II, The Asian Tsunami)
He wrote a lot of very vague predictions full of symbolism.  You hear some of them that seem to be accurate from time to time, but few that weren’t.

One of Nostradamus’s prophesies which is not said to have predicted the September 11th attacks on the US had previously been considered an acurate prediction of the London Blitz.  That’s a lot of flexibility if it could predict either one!

Nostradamus (or some other so-called profit) may not have described them explicitly because he could see them but they were beyond his understanding at his time!
I would be entirely willing to admit Nostradamus, or any so-called profit predicted a modern event if their prediction described it explicitly enough.   For example, if a prediction sounded like:

 "There is a guy who has a square mustache and is yelling at a crowed a rea lot and they salute him by raising their right arm and saying ‘heil’ and he seems to really be passionate but a pretty decent speaker.  He has a red band on his arm with this four-bladed pinwheel-looking thing and he really seems to dislike Jewish people a lot.   Now, I see these heavy metal machines of some type and hey have some really big guns on the front.   And it looks like they’re going into France and… well damn… there’s stuff falling from weird flying things and blowing up.  This can’t be good!"

Psychic predictions cannot be right all the time!  They only see bits and pieces of the future
But how could they miss something so big that it dominates the world for a long period of time?   For example, no psychic ever predicted September 11, but even if they didn’t see the event, any view of New York City would see the aftermath for years after.  Terrorism was on the lips of people and the headlines of newspapers for years afterward.   There are many events like this, the Iraq war has been at the top of the news for months on end and influenced many different policies and activities.   How could they miss every clue?  Every Hint?

I could feel it, I could feel the energy or her presence!
What you are describing is arguably the root of most paranormal beliefs around the world.   It’s that feeling you get, in a physical way, that a person has warmth or charm or that an area is "creepy" or you have walked into a room fulled with "happiness" or "celebration."  But what you have in fact felt is a subconscious interpretation of many verbal and visual clues which though individually small, add up to present a certain feeling.   You’d be overwhelmed if you had to consciously process them all, so biology has given you this abstraction to make life much easier.  It’s called intuition.

Do you ever get that same feeling of dread or sense love or hapiness or unease from a fictional movie?    Obviously it’s not real and you’re not even there in person.  It’s not magic.  It’s good acting and scenery!

There are photos of ghosts!  Not just orbs but figures and shapes!
Ok, but isn’t it amazing that the ghosts only take the most blurred or non-physical forms when there are good cameras near them and only seem to do explicit full body apparitions when there is no camera present or possibly when the only picture taken is from a distance and badly out of focus, motion blured, underlit or otherwise low quality?

There are a lot of pictures taken in the world.  There are a lot of film process errors, corrupted files, objects out of focus.   Some look like bunny rabbits.  Some look like boots.  A few even look like ghosts.   What’s your point?

There’s photos which clearly show a face on mars!  (or Jesus on a piece of toast or on a stain under an overpass)
Okay, so there is a feature on surface of mars which, under certain lighting conditions, does kinda sorta look like a face, although not quite symmetrical or in proportions – I’m willing to concede that, but what is your point?   There surface or mars is larger than the exposed land area of earth and there’s no shortage of natural features on earth that look like something, just by pure chance.   For example "The Old Man in The Mountain." Which was in New Hampshire until it fell down.

The human mind looks for patterns.  If you spend your day looking at clouds you’ll see socks, and trucks and bunny rabbits.  It’s the same thing with any stain or mark that resembles a face or Jesus.  If you look at enough stains, scuffs or marks you’ll eventually find one that looks like something.   If your qualifications for what Jesus looked like are general enough, you won’t have too much trouble finding one.

No proof will ever be enough for the skeptic!
Any actual proof will be enough.   However I guess you’ll just have to take my word on that, just because "proof" has never actually been presented.  Maybe if someone could ever come up with proof, then we could put your claim to the test.

Skeptics reject claims that just do not jive with logic or established principals of science, when the evidence is flimsy or non-existent.   Carl Segan said "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."   If you are going to claim something that goes beyond logic or is just strange, you had better back it up with something substantive.   Is that really that high a standard?

They found evidence on this show I saw!  They investigated and found some weird things and emf readings and energies!
Interesting that no matter how many investigations they do, they never seem to have actually conclusive evidence!  The best that they can seem to do is end up saying "This is still open," based on some very vague measurements, subjective feelings or other very flimsy evidence.   They never get anything substnative!

Many ships and planes have gone missing in the Bermuda Triangle area!  Many were mysteriously never found!
There have been a lot of ships and planes lost in that area.  There are a lot of ships and planes which fly or sail in that area.  But proportionately, no more losses than other parts of the world.  If it seems "mysterious" it’s because often no wreckage is ever found.   Not surprising when you consider that the ocean is big and stuff has a tendency to sink.

Science refuses to research of acknowledge the paranormal!
It didn’t always.  When radio and electricity were not entirely understood, the idea that the dead could be contacted by electrical means did not seem that outlandish.   At one time, mediums and psychics and ghost pictures were considered possibly credible.   However, after enough studies and experiments were done and all turned out to show no evidence of the paranormal, the mainstream scientific community pretty much closed the issue in the early part of the 20th century.  Others continued to do research, but considering the lack of any substantive results, it’s pretty much agreed upon that such research is, at best, a waste of money that could be spent on something much more useful, and at worst a complete farce.


General Purpose Psycics:

How can a psychic possibly miss a future event as big 9/11 or World War II or the fall of the Soviet Union?   These events were so huge, that even if they only could get glimpses of the future, their effect lasted and they were talked about for years after.  And yet nothing like this has been explicitly predicted in advance?

B) What do you call someone who claims to have visions of a crime scene or the location of a victims body, which nobody else can know?    A)The prime suspect

How many times does a psychic have to be really really wrong before people stop listening?    Apparently a real lot.

Have you ever noticed that just about all the "correct predictions" are really general but never one that gives a first and last name, date or anything really precise like that?   Is it just that psychics can see things, but only if they don’t have legible words or numbers?

Why is it that ghosts can do things like send names or individual letters to a medium, but they can’t send a whole string of them?  Like their last name or something verifiable?  It always seems to be very general.  Wouldn’t they EVER get a direct hit?


General Purpose Ghosts:

Have you ever noticed that the quality of ghost citing are inversely proportional to the number of people who see something?   One person sees a full body appreciation, two people see a figure in the distance, a small group sees something move out of the corner of their eye, and a large group with video cameras and

So apparently there is some rule that ghosts are only allowed to appear in the dark?  or when few people are around?    You’d really think that at least one would break ranks and just show up at the 50 yard line of the Superbowl.   That would pretty much close the case on whether they exist, wouldn’t it?

Why is it that ghosts never seem to move things or break plates when there are cameras around?  And why do they seem to move stuff when nobody is around at all?

There’s really not a lot of consistency on ghosts.  Do any of the ghost "researchers" really agree on that stuff?  Are ghosts memories from a past time?  Are they aware of their surroundings?  Can they be gotten rid of?  Can they come back after "crossing over" and what the hell is "crossing over" anyway?   Can they communicate with all people or just mediums?   Ask five ghost "researchers" and you’ll get five answers.   They can’t all be right.   But they can all be wrong!

General Purpose Skeptism:

You know, if you’re going to believe in the paranormal, you have to be pretty selective.   The US Air Force does not work with aliens and also try to research these unknown UFO’s.  We did not fake the moon landing and encounter aliens during the Apollo program.   Ghosts cannot be both unaware of their surroundings and capable of playing jokes on the living.

"If a haunted, radioactive, black helicopter piloted by bigfoot colides with a flying saucer from the center of the hallow, flat earth, while flying over the Bermuda Triangle, are his crash injuries best treated with homopathy or acupuncture?   And if he dies, does his ghost haunt the area of the crash or his home in Pacific North West?"

Funny that all skeptics get criticized, they don’t ever seem to be proven wrong.


 


Famous Cases

              

Why is James Randi so qualified to assess claims of the paranormal or alternative science?   He’s not a scientist!
Because Randi’s experience and expertise is in the field of debunking and his consistent results speak for themself.

Professional scientists may be experts in their field, but that does not mean that are not gullible or capable of being tricked.  
They are used to working with respected colleagues and in controlled environments and may not have much experience with having someone actively rig their experiment for the express purpose of deceiving them.

Hypothetical Example:  A person claims to be able to light a lightbulb with their own bioenergetics fields from their fingertips.   A physicist observing a demonstration may say "This person must have generated a relatively stable current at a voltage capable of illuminating the bulb to a relatively high brightness and whether it is alternating or direct current, clearly they are able to separate the two poles."    However James Randi is more likely to say "You didn’t notice that battery that they palmed when they briefly moved their hand under the table, did you?"

James Randi is an angry man with a grudge against the paranormal and psychics!
You have obviously never met the man, as he is not only an approachable, likeable person of principal, but he also works very hard for a cause he believes in.

He’s outraged by conartists?  He’s driven to expose liars and frauds?   HOW DARE HE!

People like Randi assume that all the claims they hear are right from the getgo!
And yet he has never been proven wrong on shooting down a paranormal claim, has he?

Considering every single one which is thoroughly investigated turns out to be false.   After enough of them are shot down, it seems it would be a good assumption.

The fact that nobody has ever won James Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge is proof that it is rigged.  Randi would never give up the money!
Wow.   You really know nothing about the history of the prize or just how hard his foundation members have honestly tried to find someone creditable to take it!

You do know that there has never even been a creditable attempt at the prize that made it to Randi, having passed the most preliminary qualifications, right?    You also know that no highly publicized celebrity psychic or other paranormalist, such as John Edward, Sylvia Browne or Uri Gellar has ever stepped up to the challenge, even if Sylvia Browne did once agree to take it.

Why should someone who has psycic powers bother taking Randi’s challenge?   They don’t need the money and he is so hostile!
Well it would sure as hell shut him up and put him in his place IF they could actually pass it, wouldn’t it?  It would probably shut most of the critics up and get them universal respect… IF they could pass the test.

A million dollars could do a lot of good in the world.   Don’t you think it’s a bit selfish of them to not bother when they could feed so many poor Africans?

It would also legitimize the paranormal research projects, extend science and make science have to reevaluate all that is considered accurate and true.

Why do you attack someone like Sylvia Brown?
For the same reason that someone who’s never been to medical school should be prosecuted for setting up shop as a surgeon.  People like Browne have offered to "help" in matters of life or death and only served to turn searchers in the wrong direction.

Because when you can look into the eyes of a grieving parent, take their money and tell them something about their lost child that you have just made up, I simply cannot feel any compassion for you or see anything but evil in that.

Because she isn’t what she says she is and it wouldn’t really take that much research to figure that out.

How do you know Sylvia Browne is a fraud?  She can’t be right all the time!
Perhaps not, but how do you reconcile how very very wrong she is?   Take Shawn Hornbeck.  She said he was dead and graphically described his burial place and his killer.  It turns out he was alive for the whole time and his kidnapper looked nothing like her description.   How do you explain that kind of confidence if what she saw was so wrong?  It’s not a cloudy or unclear picture.   She did not say she saw an apple when it was an orange.   She said it was a Red 1973 Cadillac Deville with a white leather Interior and chrome hubcaps  and a dent in the left side of the hood when it was an orange.   That’s how far off she was!   And no… she never did explain it.

Why would you go after Uri Gellar?  What’s wrong with someone like him showing such powers?
Do you know anything about Gellar?   His scams are so bad and blatant they’re like an invitation to debunk and laugh at him.   Also, he’s spreading a lot of disinformation and making money without having to actually work.

His professional life is not just a shame.  He, personally, is a complete douchebag.   If you do much research you’ll find it out pretty fast.


Religion:

              

Are skeptics Atheists?
Some are.  Some are agnostic.  They can have any spiritual beliefs, however fundamentalism and literal 100% interperitation of scripture would tend to conflict with the mindset… and also reality.

Why are you an Athiest?  Why would you want to not believe in god?  You must hate religion!
I didn’t choose to be an Athiest.  I choose to see things for what they are.   I see no evidence that religion is factually accurate in its beliefs and plenty of evidence that it was invented.   I cannot force myself to believe something is true when I see no reason to, any more than I could choose not to believe the sky is blue.    I’m not delusional enough, I guess.

I didn’t *choose* to believe something because of it’s implications or because it is comforting, liberating, explains things as I’d like them to be.  No, I just believe what is apparent to me based on all I know and can see.   I wish you could respect that.

Whether or not religion does good or bad or preaches a positive message is irrelevant.  Sure there have been many wars and atrocities in the name of God and there have been charitable works and inspired works toward peace because of religion.   Whether or not it does a net good or bad is irrelevant if it’s foundation is not factually accurate.

How can you have morals without god?   You can’t be an atheist and be ethical!
It’s not actually that hard.  Treat people like you want to be treated, act in an honest way, avoid causing harm to others or the environment or society.   It’s actually extremely simple.

Ethics can very easily be derived from simple logic.  If treat others well, then you will usually be treated well.  If you value a just society, it will ultimately serve you better.   Do you really need all the rules and implications explicitly told to you to figure this stuff out?

I like being nice to people because it makes me feel good when they smile or say thank you.   I like the feeling of achieving something when I help a fellow human out.  I like knowing that I have nothing to be ashamed of.   You don’t know that feeling do you?

X are evil! They need to be stopped or spoken out against!
(X= homosexuals, adulterers, drug users, masturbaters)
Perhaps they are, but don’t you think it would do more good to focus on the murders, child molesters, rapists, terrorists?  They seem to damage more than their own salvation.   Once you are done stopping them, we can start talking about the homosexuals and masturbators.

Does the scripture not say "Let he who is free of sin throw the first…"   Oh wait.   I’m sure that argument has been made to you before, hasn’t it?   You really don’t care and just like hating people, don’t you?

You cannot disprove God!  You cannot disprove my religion!  I know what is real!
No, it’s not actually possible to disprove God, since by definition such an entity would seem to avoid all detection.    If you have your own reasons for believing in a higher power or feel some sort of spiritual force at work, I can respect that.   The earth being 5000 years old and species being created in a poof, however – That science has no problem disproving.

Believing that there is a higher being due to your personal inspirations or feeling spiritually driven is subjective and I can respect that, even if I don’t agree with it.  The earth being 5000 years old is not an opinion and not a matter of conjecture.   It’s a factual issue and not only inaccurate but absurd!

The Bible is the word of God!  100% true and literal in every sense!
Ok, so by that you mean the modern consolidated bible?   Or do you include the Gospels of Thomas and Mary and Judas and the Gnostic Gospels and the Old Testimate account of Adam’s first wife Lilith?   Oh you didn’t know about that?   Yeah.  Those were considered just as legitimate until one of the committees threw them out some time between 200 AD or so and the middle ages.

And you know this how?   Because the bible says it?   There has to be some sort of self-evident initial reason or something.   Or do you just not like logic?

I’ll grant you that the Bible could be 100% literally true IF God spent the majority of his time fabricating dinosaur bones, tweaking the isotopic composition of minerals, moving planets in a way that makes them look like they orbit the sun and so on.   Why exactly do you think god is so concerned with making sure that he does everything to trick us?

I know what is true.  I have faith.  You cannot argue with all the millions who believe in my religion.  The fact that we are so committed and sure is proof in itsself!
And yet, many many religions have followers with absolute faith and devotion who have no doubt of it’s validity.  Egyptians worked themselves to death to build monuments because they believed their pharaoh was a god.  Muslims commit suicide because they are so sure Allah will reward them.  Buddhists deny themselves normal lives in the hopes of becoming more spiritually pure.   They cannot all be right.  But they can all be wrong.

Religion has inspired great things!  It brings people comfort and teaches forgiveness.  Why take that away from them?
I never said that it didn’t have good sides.  Of course it has bad sides too, but that’s not the point.   If the foundation and the core belief is not true, why should people be taught a fantasy?  Isn’t it more important that we live with balanced minds so we can see the world for what it is?   It pains me to see children being taught lies in the name of faith.

Prayer is powerful!  Prayer works!
Do you honestly believe that someone would die, arrive at the pearly gates and be told "You’re lucky.   You were just a hair over the limit to get in but your grandkids prayed enough that we’ll write off a few sins"   Do you honestly think that god would say "You know, I was going to end his life, but since the family prayed enough…. I’ll grant a spontaneous remission" or even "Wow, they were close to a spontaneous remission, but one rosaries too few.  Oh well"

While it’s somewhat understandable to talk to God directly, if you believe in him, exactly what does chanting prewritten words repeatedly do?   God just likes to know that you spent hours doing stuff that was really boring and non-productive?

So with prayers, someone may get better from, for example, an illness, they may even have an unusually swift and dramatic recovery.  Of course, they may also die.   How is this different from not praying?   There’s never been a hint of evidence it increases the odds.

Miricals happen!  This person survived a horrible disease or accident!  This person was rescued when the odds were very slim!
So them god loved them more than all the others who died despite prayers and begging for healing?   Wow, god sounds like a real douchebag to do that to a few people, granting all the others hope only to not answer their prayers.

You do realize that if a condition has a 99% chance of death and 10,000 people have the condition, there are going to be a good 100 or so, by chance alone who recover.  It might seem miraculous, but it’s simple statistics.  Spontaneous remissions of cancer, unusually rapid recoveries from injuries, escapes from extremely high fatality events are well known and documented.  They happen, just not too often.   What about all those who didn’t make it?   God didn’t feel like it?

General purpose:

Have you ever really red the bible?   Do you realize how outlandish some of the laws and claims are?

Are you even aware that the Rapture is not in the bible?  Or that Christmas is never said to be in December?  Or even that the bible doesn’t say what Jesus looked like?

Why would I want to worship a God who demands my praise and beliefs or will cast me into fire?   I’m sorry, but even if I believed in such a being, I just cannot honestly say I could ever feel like praising him were anything more than lying to try to brownnose my way out of hell.

In so far as "Why do bat things happen to good people" and "Sometimes things don’t go as we hope."   Have you ever considered that rather than it being part of a mystery we cannot understand or that there is some great plan for more good in the long run, that you might want to run this by Captain Obvious?

Why is it that when something good happens after being prayed for, that prayer has worked, but when the opposite happens, nobody says prayer has failed?

 

 


Questioning your credentials:.

         

How can you evaluate the scientific validity of a subject?   Who are you to talk about how science should be done?
Although many scientific pursuits are very in-depth and require a great deal of knowledge and training, the basics of the scientific method, evaluating data and understanding the logic behind how observations are made and theories are formulated is not all that complicated and applies universally.   Even if I am not entirely familiar with a given subject, I can still tell you whether or not the methods and logic behind a given claim are consistent with good science.

Claim X was made by Dr. Such-and-Such, who has worked in the field for years and was educated at Oxford, Harvard and Yale!  Who are you to write it off?
(X = Questionable scientific claim)
Good credentials one paper do not make one infallible.   While I would be more apt to trust the results from someone with a strong background, it’s really the claims and not the author that matter.  
Also, George W. Bush went to Yale and was an officer and pilot in the Air National Guard.

It’s entirely possible they know what they are talking about.   Perhaps they are simply lying/


There is one factor that pretty much trumps everything.  No matter how honorable or knowledgeable the person is I don’t accept stuff that is just plain absurd.

X has been validated by scientists, scholars and other highly respected individuals!  Who are you to put it down?
(X = Uri Gellar, Sylvia Browne or some other well known fraud)
It’s not as hard as you might think to fool otherwise intelligent people.   Many scientists and others are simply not accustomed to dealing with the possibility that their observations and data may be tampered with for the express purpose of deceiving them.   It’s really more a question of trickery and illusion than it is of physics of biology.

If that’s the case, James Randi has a million dollars for you.  Just prove it to him.   Shouldn’t be too hard if it’s real, right?

How do you know X is not true or valid?   You’re not a doctor!  You’re not a scientist!
While it’s true that it may require doctor to say if something is medically valid.   It doesn’t always take a doctor to know when something is completely medically *invalid*.  Most people with absolutely no medical training could make a good judgment about the value of preventing a heart attach by filling your left boot with coleslaw and burring it in your yard under a square stone on a moonless night

I can read.   And I put a lot more faith in the sources which are not buying it than those which are making the claim.


Science and Bad Science:  

              

Science cannot prove or acknowledge something that cannot be predicted, reproduced in controlled conditions or is not always reliable! This is why the paranormal is not provable!
I’m sorry to hear that your definition of science is so narrow and inaccurate.  Of course, science can research and document rare and unpredictable events, such as gamma ray bursts or other rare phenomena.  It’s simply an issue of documenting when they do occur, and if it’s ambiguous if the influence is simply due to chance, that is where statistics and probabilities come in.  Considering how much energy has been put into documenting paranormal events, one would have to conclude that either they don’t exist or that they are so extremely rare that they effectively never be expected to happen.   And yet, it is claimed that they are common enough to affect people’s everyday lives.   How does this make sense?  Has science just been so unlucky to never capture it?   That seems pretty far fetched.

Why would you oppose research on X?   Don’t you want to find out if it causes problems?
(X = depleted uranium, vaccines and autism, electromagnetic radiation)
All current research indicated that it would not cause the alleged health effects and our best data indicates it is highly unlikely to be the culprit in causing such problems.  Considering all the other factors which seem much more likely to be cause serious health and environmental problems, focusing on something like that will divert attention and funding from more important research.

So then how do you know you are right now?  Why won’t you accept other ideas?
Because of all the observations and data which support the conclusion.   If you can present more compelling evidence which proves another version of things and explains why my observations were misinterpreted, I will be more than happy to change my mind.   But, you are going to need some VERY COMPELLING evidence.

You say that conventional wisdom is usually correct and that alternative ideas are wrong.  So does that mean you would have believed the world was flat even after it was proven wrong?
The idea that the world is flat was an understandable assumption based on incomplete observations and knowledge of gravity, space and geometry.   Those who would refute such a notion would be required to present some very compelling evidence.   They did!  And the consensus changed!   Likewise, if someone wants to demonstrate that another reasonable and logical assumption is false, then they will have to provide some good evidence of it.

Why do you have faith in science?
I don’t consider it faith.   I accept it because it is logical and it works!

If science has been wrong in the past, how do you know it is right?  Doesn’t it accept that things are never 100% assured?
That is true.  Conventional wisdom is sometimes wrong, but some things are so thoroughly investigated and tested that you can effectively guarantee them.  There comes a point where you have so much evidence and no evidence to suggest otherwise where you can close the book.   It can be reopened if someone provides EXTREMELY compelling evidence, but that is rare.

Don’t theories change?   How can you ever say one is true if it’s subject to change?   Isn’t the theory of evolution different than it was?
Yes, theories are extended to more accurately explain things, but accepted theories are rarely overturned.  The basics of the Theory of Evolution are still the same, however new incite shows that there can be periods of relatively rapid change, when the environment or other factors change and understanding of genetics has enhanced the ability to understand the underlying mechanism.  But the theory has not been rejected, only extended.

Do you trust scientists?  Do you think that they are infallible?
I don’t have infinite trust in any person.   It’s the information more than the author.  I evaluate whether it is logical, based on good observations and well documented.  I will trust those with high credentials more, but not infinately.

Science is elitist and people who are not "in" cannot get recognized for their ideas!
It’s the idea that is important, not the person who it came from.   Results speak for themselves.  If you have no education no prior experience and no recognition, but you can build and demonstrate a fusion reactor that produces energy, you will get noticed.

If you can show your idea works, people will listen.   It’s the results that matter.

There once was a lowly patent Clerk who had taken time off from graduate school, which he was barely passing, to try to make some money.   Most dismissed him as not that bright.   Then he created the theory of Special Relativity and then General Relativity.  His name was Albert Einstein.   People listened because the theory made sense and worked!

Are you saying education doesn’t matter?
Certainly Not!   An education is a means, but not an end.  It is how you gain the knowledge necessary to achieve great things.   It’s not impossible to achieve great things without an education, but it’s much much more difficult and the chances are very slim, though not non-existent.

Nobody is going to argue with you that there are some people who discovered great things without a formal education.   Nor would anyone argue with you that there are many times more who have discovered great things with an education, and even more who have discovered nothing with no education.


Science/Skepticism and Education:

              

Science isn’t useful to non-scientists.   I’m an accountant so when would I ever use this?
Science is not simply for the laboratory or for pure research.  A basic understanding of scientific principals can be useful in all kinds of ways.  For example, lets say you have a clogged drain and you use a lye-based drain cleaner to try to clear it.  It doesn’t work and now have to reach into the drain or to start opening the pipes.  A very rudimentary understanding of chemistry would let you know that something like vinegar would be perfectly suited to neutralize the caustic effects of the drain cleaner.   There are enumerable examples!

I have always had this theory or idea for….But I really don’t know because I’m not a professional and I don’t know much about it..
That great!  You can learn the theory and practical matters, but the enthusiasm and creativity is something you already have and that can be the hardest thing to get.   Have you read up on the subject?  Courses at a local community college?   You know if you contact some actual people in the field, you’ll be surprised how approachable and helpful they can really be.   Go for it!

What is so great about encouraging amateurs to build crap in their garage?  Or to buy a telescope? Or get a ham radio license?
Well, it’s fun.   Can you think of a better pursuit for nights and weekends that actually accomplishes something?

They might change the world.   Granted, the chances are low, but it happens. But if enough people can be encouraged to explore, discover and invent, the cumulative chances will go up quite a bit.

If they do not change the world themselves, they may very well inspire the kid down the street who comes by to see their Tesla coil to.  Or they might discover their own love for it and go make a life and career out of it.

Your average Joe cannot understand astrophysics or the concepts of biochemistry!
Do scientists research the origins of the universe to simply tell other scientists?  No.  They do so because it is relevant to everyone.  With all the money and resources being spent from taxes and grants to discover new and wondrous things, everyone is entitled to the understanding it brings!  You don’t need to know all the math to be in true awe of some of the discoveries which have been made.

It’s not fair for "Intelligent Design" to not be taught in schools alongside Evolution!  Why is this theory discriminated against and oppressed?
It would be to teach it if it were accurately described as "Intelligent Design is an idea which refutes evolution and which is considered ridiculous by the scientific community collectively and by all but a very few fringe professionals individually.  It’s not supported by any actual evidence but some people find that it’s necessary to believe it is true in order for their belief system to not fall apart"

What would you teach about "Intelligent Design?"  Would you teach of the evidence that supports it?  or how it was postulated?  Or how it was tested over the years and possibly amended?  No, you can’t teach any of that, because it has none of that.  All you can say is that it was made up to create a scientific-sounding idea that fit the biblical accounts of how the world was created

It’s not accepted by scientists because it simply is not supported by evidence and observation or testable and does not meet the qualifications for a scientific theory.  If people want to believe in it, that is there business.  They can learn about it in Sunday school, but not science class!

How can science be fun?
Have you ever seen Mythbusters?  Have you ever tried fun science?

Yeah, but that’s not "real science."   (the stuff on Mythbusters etc)
Why not?   Because it does not have the most precise measurements and well documented writeups?   It might not make the cut for a peer reviewed journal, but it can still be more than adequate for a proof of concept, demonstration or just for fun.   And there’s no reason why simple experiments, such as opinion surveys or basic measurements cannot be made without any specialized facilities or equipment.

Science does not need to be perfectly controlled and documented to be fun or simply useful for every day tasks.


Why is it so important to refute myths and superstitions in the public and amongst those who aren’t in any scientific pursuit?
Because the general public votes.   And if bad information is used to influence public policies then bad policies will result.

Because if general public buys a product then that product will succeed.  It’s a basic principal of capitalism.  If people spend their money on astrology counselors and homeopathic remedies, then the conartists behind them will profit and you may find that your local pharmacy has reduced their stock of antibiotics to make room for a shelf of homeophatic products, because hey, the public demands it!

Because every time Peter Popoff or another conman like him takes an old woman’s pension check, people need to be outraged, regardless of what they do.

Because people who govern their lives based on ignorance can hurt us all.   They don’t know how to properly take antibiotics and therefore they cause resistant bacteria or they lack the understanding of the environment and throw away an old air conditioner, contributing to the ozone problems.

Because the world is wondrous and elegant and amazing for what it is and every person should have the opportunity to see it for what it is.  It is superstitions and inaccurate information which cloud the truth, muddy the waters and confuse people.   They ultimately hold humanity back as our society moves forward to a more enlightened future where people can appreciate and understand the world and use this knowledge to achieve great things!

 


Conspiracy Theories:

              

The Attacks on 9/11, the Iraq War, Afghanistan was all an inside job and a conspiracy!
Have you noticed Bush has been criticized for the lack of WMD’s in Iraq?   If 9/11 and all the other events since were all part of a grand conspiracy to get support for war, would you really put it past him to fabricate some nuclear bombs or chemical weapons in Iraq?

If the president really knew it was going to happen, would he have been caught reading a book to kids and not getting up right away?   Wouldn’t he be in the oval office and then gallantly take command of the situation or something more flattering like that?

If the Bush administration is really such a well-controlled, evil, conspiring entity that can keep major plots hidden, why to they f*** up so much?

If you are going to bring up the details of something which is still a very traumatic, sad and angering memory for many who simply saw it happen, let alone those who lost loved ones, you really had better have some very serious and conclusive evidence, because a real lot of people don’t consider it to be a fun thing for you to play amateur detective with.   Please just go buy the board game "Clue" instead.

Do you know any single witness to a plane hitting the Pentagon?
Yes.

The US never actually went to the moon!
Have you considered how difficult it would be to fake a moon landing?  There’s more than just the TV pictures.  There were also transmissions from the moon, tracked my amateurs and radio telescopes, the rocket could be optically tracked.   They would have needed remote probes, spoofed transmissions, a robotic mission to place a laser mirror on the moon.   It’d be easier to just go

Have you ever considered who might have the means and motive to disprove the moon landing?    The Soviet Union was in direct competition with the US.  They had space flight experience, had sent probes to the moon and had some of the best minds in spaceflight.  Furthermore, they had the means to track the missions optically, by radar and listen in on communications.  They were keenly interested in US space and missile technology and would certainly have analyzed all the available information.   Do you really think the US could have fooled them but not a few Conspiracy-Theorists?  If anything had been found to indicate the landings were faked the USSR would have had a field day mocking the dishonesty and technological inferiority of the Capitalist System.

Have you ever actually researched this?  I mean seriously.  There is no single claim of conspiracy evidence that has not been debunked.  Do you want me to go get Dr. Plait to lay the smack down on you?  Because could I swear I saw a can of whoopass in his cupboard.

The US Government Is working with the aliens or has recovered and reverse-engineered alien spacecraft!
Amazing, isn’t it, that they continue to spend billions of dollars on gas-turbine based aircraft and chemical rockets like the Space Shuttle when they have anti-gravity, warp-drive and all the other exotic technologies one would find in a machine that could travel across interstellar space and cruise around the human atmosphere.

Chemtrails man!
To be absolutely honest, this is so thoroughly debunked and so freakin wacky that I don’t even know where to begin to address this.  I… just… don’t know… what to say to you.   I hope your family is okay though.


General Purpose Conspiracy Theory:
Conspiracies do happen, even at the top levels of government.  However, none of those which are known (such as Watergate) ever turn out to be as interesting or extreme as those which are just speculation (such as Roswell)

 


Medical:

              

Why should I take medical advice from you?   You’re not a doctor!
I’m not, and I would never claim to be qualified to dispense any sort of medical treatment or make a diagnosis.  However, it only takes common sense to tell you when you should see one.  If, for example, you have pain shooting down your arm, tightness in your chest and shortness of breath, I’d recommend you get that checked out right away:   I’m not going to tell you you’re having a heart attack, but you’d still do well to listen to such advice.

It does take a doctor to know which treatment might be best for you and whether some are effective or not.   However, there are many cases where you don’t need any medical training at all to write something off.  
Most people with absolutely no medical training could make a good judgment about the value of preventing a heart attach by filling your left boot with coleslaw and burring it in your yard under a square stone on a moonless night.

Despite not being a professional, I can still tell you what the consensus is in the medical in the medical community about such things as Homeopathy and various alternative treatments.  If you don’t believe me, you can research it yourself.   But as far as general information goes:  It’s rejected by the majority of those in the profession

Why would you oppose a hospital or clinic setting up a program of X if patients want it?
(X= Touch Therapy, Homeopathics, energy therapies)
Because doing so will inevitably mean that funding and resources are diverted from somewhere else.  I would rather have a facility spend their money on a new MRI machine, training their staff in new techniques or hiring more doctors or nurses than spend the money on some unfounded treatment.   This would be especially true if I or someone I am close to needed to be treated at such an institution.

I know a guy who took X and he said it really worked great for him in relieving a medical condition!
(X= homeopathy, an unfounded supplement, snakeoil)
Have you ever heard of the placebo effect?  It’s a very well known phenomena which is accounted for in all major drug studies.  But don’t tell that guy unless you want his positive results to go away.

I’m not a doctor!  Why should I care about health sciences?  Can’t I just leave it up to the professionals?
If nothing else, it will help you judge when you need to see a professional.   There are plenty of cases where symptoms are a good indicator that something serious could be happening but lives may be lost because people simply do not know they should seek help.

You cannot expect a professional to always be there for the big and small decisions.  A little knowledge could help you in something as simple as knowing what OTC medication might work well for a headache and what products are simply useless.

You might not be a mechanic, but knowing a thing or two about a cars engine would still be very helpful in preventing you for falling for a dishonest mechanic or dealer.  Isn’t your body and wellbeing more important than a car?

Homeopathy should not be dismissed as potentially useful!
Do you actually know what homeopathy is?  (most people don’t)   It basically claims that a tiny amount of something which causes a problem will fix that problem.  So poisons which cause your skin to break out would, in small doses help a similar skin problem.   While this may be somewhat true of a very few substances, it’s not a valid guiding principal in medicine and has been debunked to death.  If you carry it to the extreme it becomes ridiculous!

Natural Things are good for me!  If it’s natural it can’t hurt me because people were meant to be part of nature?
Snake Venom, Hemlock, Arsenic, Radium, Bird Crap.  Need In say more?   Sure, some natural things are good for you, but some aren’t.  What’s your point?

Plenty of "conventional" medicines are based on natural ingredients, such an antibiotics.  Others are synthetic compounds designed to act like a natural compound or trigger a certain response.  What is your problem with them?    Would you rather just eat a twig and hope there might be some compound in it that will do you some good or something reliable?

 

When All Else Fails:

               

Hey!  How can you call me stupid for having different views!  Don’t call me names!
I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but many of your views were very obviously stupid.  I eventually formulated the hypothesis that you are an idiot.  After this hypothesis was tested and found to be able to accurately predict what you would say or do and given that it is in line with current knowledge, I consider it a well proven theory.   If you are going to claim you are not an idiot I will need some very compelling evidence.

Hey!  I don’t believe you!  I’m right!
Oh you poor poor person.   I’m sorry but I really did try to help you with your delusions.  I really feel like I have failed you in some way.   I hope someday you can see the light.

The stick method:

–  Hit the idiot a stick
–  Proclaimed that you have won the argument
–  When someone says "Hey!  That’s totally hypocritical." or "How can you say you uphold freedom of speech?  You can’t just go around deciding that those you don’t agree with need to be delt with violently" or "You can’t just hurt those you do not agree with" – React to this by saying "No.  That was entirely fair and justifiable."
– If they do not agree with you, hit them with the stick
– If they continue to not agree with you, hit again with stick
– Continue until the conflict has been resolved